Africa, Politics

Brother Leader is dead

By Simon Allison 20 October 2011

Former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi has been killed, according to numerous reports. After hours of speculation, this was confirmed by the National Transitional Authority, the country’s de facto government, at about 3pm South African time and seemingly-authentic video footage flighted by Al Jazeera helped shore up the claim. But Libyans were convinced long before that; the satellite news channels are full of footage of wildly celebrating Libyans firing bullets into the air and holding their guns aloft in a victory salute and waving the new Libyan flag. It seems this is a defining moment of the Libyan Revolution. By SIMON ALLISON.

Details are sketchy, and a couple of competing versions of his death have emerged. Some say that Gaddafi was discovered in a hole, and was shot while trying to resist capture. This narrative bears chilling similarities with the eventual arrest of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. Others say that he was shot while his convoy was trying to escape the city of Sirte, which the NTC claimed today to have captured. Sky News interviewed one alleged eyewitness, who claimed that he was shot in Sirte in the abdomen by a 9mm gun. The eyewitness gleefully told the reporter that he had personally hit the body of Muammar Gaddafi with his shoe; this is a deep insult in Libya.

The ramifications of Gaddafi’s death are hard to predict. Gaddafi’s support has been vociferous, particularly in the cities of Sirte and Bani Walid, but the NTC says it is in control of both cities. Will Brother Leader’s heavily-armed support melt away after his demise? Or will Gaddafi become a martyr, inspiring his loyalists even in death? Don’t forget that some of Gaddafi’s sons are still at large, and they are the ones supposed to have been coordinating the fight against the rebels.

But for now, Libyans who have fought long and hard to overthrow Gaddafi’s rule are celebrating the demise of the man who had oppressed them for so long. The gruesome picture of Gaddafi’s bloodied body, circulated by AFP news agency and apparently confirmed as genuine by an NTC official, is some kind of closure to for a country which his long, brutal rule left even more bruised and bloodied.

The death of Gaddafi marks today as a historic moment in Libya’s modern history, and the culmination of their long, hard fight against more than 40 years of oppression. DM

(We’re updating this article on a regular basis as new information emerges in what remains a rapidly evolving situation.)



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Photo: Reuters

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